And now, we’re down to four as the 2019 Copa Paulino Alcantara nears conclusion with the defending Copa Paulino Alcantara champions Kaya FC-Iloilo facing newcomers Mendiola FC 1991 while the three-time Philippines Football League winners Ceres-Negros FC face Stallion Laguna FC in the semis.
After a very quick group stage matches, Ceres-Negros FC topped group A with seven points while Mendiola FC 1991 making it through with five points after a comeback draw against the Philippines U-22.
Now we look into the pairings in the semifinals and see what these clubs need to do to progress to the final.
A thrilling encounter at the Biñan Football Stadium awaits us as the league champs Ceres-Negros FC will be playing against Stallion Laguna FC in the semifinals of the CoPA.
Knowing that the only club who blemished their almost-perfect record in the league with two draws, the busmen will be really wary of the threat laid out by Stallion Laguna FC whose given home-field advantage as they will be playing in the stable in Biñan, Laguna.
We’ve seen how great the league winners are in terms of their team depth. At any given day against any competition, Ceres-Negros FC’s B-side can still deliver a big win for the busmen.
Should coach Ernie Nierras’ wards want to progress to the final and possibly snatch the AFC Cup slot from Kaya FC-Iloilo, they have to deliver their best performance of the season in this game.
It is worth noting that Stallion Laguna FC is still yet to score their goal through an open play as two of their goals in the competition came from the penalty spot while the other one was curled into the back of the net by Kouichi Belgira through a free-kick against Stallion Laguna FC.
On the other hand, despite coach Risto Vidakovic saying that they don’t really give much focus on the cup, they still tore group A apart. They started out slow with a draw against group B runners-up Mendiola FC.
The league champs finished with a +5 goal difference and not losing any games. They’ve been threatened twice in the cup as Mendiola conducted a late comeback while they needed their own version of a comeback against Philippines U-22 who led by a goal thanks to Yrick Gallantes before Dylan De Bruycker equalised before Robert Lopez-Mendy capped off the comeback on the 86th minute of that match.
Meanwhile, Stallion Laguna FC had a relatively difficult cup campaign as they started out on the wrong foot in their match against the Philippine Air Force FC.
Alex Elnar put the airmen in the lead on the 24th minute which rattled coach Nierras’ side. They needed two penalty calls, one on the 39th minute which was buried home by Fitch Arboleda while the other one came on the 86th minute which was finished by Matthew Nierras.
With the fact that Stallion Laguna FC spoiled Ceres-Negros FC’s bid for a perfect campaign in the league twice, can they try to spoil their cup double hopes as well?
With their title defence on the line and assurance of an AFC Cup slot next season, Kaya FC-Iloilo will be facing the newcomers Mendiola FC 1991 at the Aboitiz Pitch in Lipa, Batangas.
Despite being the newcomers in the league, Mendiola FC proved that they are not just a push-over club with their most recent results in the cup. They kicked off their campaign with a surprising draw over Ceres-Negros FC thanks to a comeback sparked by Hamed Hajimahdi towards the tail end of the first half that was capped off by Roberto Corasme Jr. on the 64th minute.
They then went on to win their next match against the Green Archers United before staging another comeback, this time against the Philippines U-22.
It was the same scenario as it was started off by Hamed Hajimahdi before their team captain Ashley Flores buried home the equalizer that sent them to the semifinals of the cup.
On the other hand, Kaya FC-Iloilo started off strong with a five-nil victory over the Philippine Air Force FC before their stalemate against Stallion Laguna FC.
Should Mendiola FC 1991 fight for their spot for the AFC Cup next year, they would have to use the same grit they showed in the group stages. Kaya FC might’ve won three out of four matches against Mendiola this season, that draw last October 2 proved that the boys from Mendiola can pull off a surprise result against a tough opponent.
Meanwhile, for Kaya FC-Iloilo, they just need to make sure that they don’t lose their composure as well as the control of midfield for them to progress to the final and defend their trophy.
They also need to make sure to utilize their players in-form like Kenshiro Daniels and the underrated Jayson Panhay. Daniels has already scored twice in the cup so does Panhay and he’s also delivered a goal for his teammate.
Are you excited? So are we! Make sure to catch the games live at the venues or if you can’t make it to the stadiums, visit PFLTV.ph for the stream as well as on their Facebook page.